We can’t afford to get this wrong
The Hill: June 24, 2015, 12:00 pm
Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons to further exert its influence in the Middle East and beyond. This statement is not my opinion. This statement is not conjecture based on reading the musings of intellectuals who think they understand machinations of foreign leaders they have never met. This statement is based on the fact that I was one of many undercover officers who collected intelligence on the plans and intentions of the Iranian Government.
During my time in Congress I have been shocked by how many of my colleagues, leaders in our government and opinion-makers question whether or not Iran has malicious intentions. At this point in the debate about “the deal” that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are attempting to negotiate with the government of Iran, both sides’ opinion of the intentions of Iran are probably not going to change.
I think the framework of the deal is fundamentally flawed because the president and Secretary of State have a worldview where they think they can do the thing that nobody has been able to do since 1979 – get the Supreme Leader of Iran to agree to peace. If I indulge my pessimistic side I think the best-case scenario for the world is that Iran walks away from the negotiating table. Even though Congress recently passed legislation forcing the president to submit any deal he and Kerry negotiate with Iran for Congressional approval, be assured that this administration will spin any deal as a good deal. They believe their legacy depends on it.
If the framework being discussed is implemented, Iran will develop nuclear weapons within 10 years, enabling them to increase one of their most deadly exports -- terrorism.
If anyone questions this likelihood all one has to do is look to South Asia. Having served in both Pakistan and India, I’m familiar with how their nuclear armament influenced regional stability. In late November 2008, the Pakistani based terrorist group Lashkar –e Tayyiba (LET) launched a number of terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai killing almost 200 people. Some refer to these events as India’s “9/11.”
After significant investigations, the Indian government was able to confirm LET’s involvement in these cowardly attacks. The Indians knew where LET trained for these attacks. The Indians knew from where these attacks were launched and the Indians knew who was involved in the planning and execution of the attacks. When asked why the government of India didn’t respond with force, an Indian Intelligence Officer simply replied that the Pakistanis have nuclear weapons.
Stephen Hughes, a former US Army scout and author of several books on the Middle East, has reminded us in several articles that before 9/11 and al-Qa’ida, the Shia terrorist organization Hezbollah that is trained and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was responsible for more American deaths than any other group. The IRGC actively supported operations against the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan going so far as to provide small arms and explosives to both the Taliban and Iraqi militias, which were likely used to produce IEDs that were used against coalition forces. It has also been estimated that they provide between $100 and $200 million dollars a year to Hezbollah. With Iranian support over the past four decades, Hezbollah has been responsible for numerous terror attacks, including those against U.S. embassies, the Marine Barracks in Beirut, and the Khobar Towers bombing. As a direct result of these attacks, which have killed over 500 people, the United States and many of our allies have labeled both groups as terrorist organizations.
If this is what Iran has accomplished under sanctions, imagine what they will be capable of without them.
During a recent trip to the Middle East I spoke with government officials in Israel, Iraq and Turkey about foreign fighter travel into Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS. The issue of Iranian support for terrorism and the ramifications of a “nuclear deal” loomed over every conversation. Our partners in Iraq and Turkey stressed their concerns that the Iranian security apparatus is bragging about being in control of four Arab capitals - Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sana’a. Our most important partners in the region are nervous that American negotiations with Iran will exacerbate this unprecedented level of control.
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been very vocal in his opposition to a deal with Iran, used a fitting analogy to describe our government’s action. He compared negotiating with Iran to trying to domesticate a wild tiger. We all know how that ends.
Supporters of the president’s deal ask for an alternative to the current deal with Iran. The answer is not war, as they would like to bait people into saying. The answer is additional sanctions. The sanctions that were implemented in 2012 are what brought Iran to the bargaining table. Additional sanctions combined with the price of a barrel of oil as low as it is today will place any amazing amount of pressure on Iran’s economy. Some observers have noted that our European partners are hesitant to participate in additional sanctions, due to domestic, political and economic concerns. If any of our allies believe that it is in their best interest to support a regime that is a major state sponsor of terror and regularly flouts international law, then I encourage them to consider the impact a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world would have on their domestic and economic prosperity.
Until the ayatollahs that run Iran give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons, we cannot and should not ease the pressure on the regime to do so. This nuclear deal is not about the future of Iran. It’s not even just about the future of the United States or Israel. The results of our negotiations with Iran are going to decide the geopolitics of our world.
We can’t afford to get this wrong.
Hurd has represented Texas’ 23rd Congressional District since 2015. He sits on the Homeland Security and the Oversight and Government Reform committees. Before being elected to Congress, Hurd served as an undercover CIA officer stationed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
First published at The Hill: https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/245878-we-cant-afford-to-get-this-wrong